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Migration Policy

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

9. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on the co-ordination of migration policy. (229777)

Home Office Ministers discuss migration policy with ministerial colleagues on a regular basis through the Cabinet Committee structure, in particular the Ministerial Committee for Domestic Affairs Sub-Committee on Migration.

Several Departments are represented on the Migration Advisory Committee and the Migration Impact Forum. We also work closely with individual Departments on a range of more specific issues about migration policy.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Is it not the case that, when he said that it has been too easy to get into this country in the past, he was right, and that is the reason for the failure of the Government’s attempts at welfare reform? In the past three years, 365,000 fewer UK-born citizens were in work, while 865,000 more foreign migrants were in work. I listened to his answer to the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). Even if he takes the steps that he announced, are they not too little, far too late?

No, I do not accept that. If the hon. Gentleman is fair—I know that he is—he will examine the policies of a range of Departments, including the changes that have been introduced today to incapacity benefit to help the welfare-to-work programme. Of course, the needs of the economy are being put first, as he says, by the points-based system. I therefore disagree with him—I believe that the steps will be sufficient.

Last week, the immigration Minister unrepentantly and repeatedly made it clear that he supports an upper limit on immigration to the United Kingdom to prevent excessive population growth. The Home Secretary has made it clear that she does not support an upper limit. Which is Government policy?

I thank the hon. and learned Gentlemen for the question. There has been much debate in the House, including last Tuesday, although he did not take part, about the population trend that the Office for National Statistics published and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead so articulately highlighted. It identifies the total population, including the impact of migration. The Government’s point, with which my right hon. Friend agrees, is that the points-based system allows for controlling migration for workers by a method that ensures that the trends do not come to fruition. That is the policy.

I detect that, when the immigration Minister is in the sight of the Home Secretary, he suddenly starts to lose his independence of thought. It is clear that two Government positions are coming from the Home Office—the immigration Minister’s and the Home Secretary’s—and they cannot be reconciled. If the immigration Minister wants to achieve what he says, and prevent a population of 70 million, there must be curbs on immigration. The Home Secretary does not accept that. Given that the Prime Minister appears to endorse the immigration Minister’s view, are we to assume that we should defer entirely to the immigration Minister on those matters and forget what the Home Secretary tells us?

I think that we have confirmation that those on the Conservative Front Bench have no credible policies. The Government have repeatedly stated that had the points-based system that we have introduced been in place 12 months ago, 12 per cent. fewer migrants would have come to this country to work than otherwise. In that way—it seems to be almost a primary-school mathematical point that the hon. and learned Gentleman is seeking to make political mischief out of—the policy is reconciled. I wish that he could say the same of his.